Next to capital expenses like the purchase of a building, human resources are the single biggest expense for most businesses, so you want to make sure that you’re hiring well, the first time.
If you’ve never hired an employee before, this post and the one that follows will walk you through all the details you need to consider before and during the hiring of your first employee!
Should you hire employees or freelancers?
This is a tough question and depends a lot on the type of business you have and what your needs are. Freelance staff can be valuable but not in every position. No one has ever heard of a freelance barista, have they? But for your bookkeeping? An independent contractor might be just the ticket.
Here is a list of some of the advantages to each, to get you started deciding which type of employee will be best for you:
- Have more commitment to your company and your vision for the business. A contractor is in it for the work, and the pay. An employee might feel they have more at stake by being involved at a deeper level. Beyond that, many people don’t enjoy being freelancers as there is a lack of consistency for them too, both in terms of scheduled hours or pay, or both.
- Provide continuity for both your needs and that of your customers. Particularly if you have a public front to your business, it’s nice for customers to see the same faces again and again. They establish a rapport with one another, which can further your sales.
- Hiring costs money, whether as employees or contractors, but since most businesses in the startup phase don’t have a dedicated HR department, it’s something you or your partners will have to take on directly. You don’t want to have to be hiring again and again because your freelancers end up being unavailable.
- The flip side with freelancers is that they are a more flexible choice. If you don’t want to pay someone during what you know will be a ‘downtime’ in your business, a freelancer might be a good option. Freelancers can also be a good addition to full time employees, enabling your business to take on extra work or projects when it’s available but not having to pay someone full time, when the work isn’t there.
- Freelancers might have specific knowledge that an employee might not. For example, if you need someone to set up some of your tech (website, social media, develop an app etc…) but you don’t need someone to manage it full time going forward, a freelancer is a better bet.
- Freelancers come with less overhead. They don’t get sick days, they don’t get personal or vacation days, you don’t have to pay them via payroll, with all the concomitant deductions and benefits contributions. So while a freelancer might seem more costly ‘per hour’, their overall cost might be less as you are only paying for the time you are using and they take care of their own benefits and other expenses.
What you need in place and questions you need answered before you can even consider hiring
- What is your employee going to do? You’ll need a solid job description, as much for yourself as for them!
- Do you feel want to do the hiring yourself or will you prefer a recruiter or headhunter to at least do the first run?
- Will the job be part-time or full-time? With it be a short or long term contract?
- Do you have a space for them to work from or are you expecting them to work from home or an alternate remote location?
- What do you need to supply them with to get their job done? A uniform? Equipment? Tools? Think about everything you might need to provide.
- What format will training be in? In person or online? How much will it cost?
- Will you be providing any benefits? Can you afford to?
Before you start the hiring process for employees, however, you need a couple of things in place:
- You need a Business Number (BN). You can register online!
- You need a Payroll Account Number that is associated with the Business Number. Through this number, you will be collecting, remitting and reporting on the following Federal source deductions:
- EI—Employment Insurance—premiums
- CPP—Canada Pension Plan—Contributions
- Personal federal income tax
- You may also have provincial deduction (Employee Health Tax, for example) or WSIB premiums to account for as well.
- You may also have to account for any taxable benefits, such as if you provide lodging for your employee as is the case at seasonal resorts for example, or use of a company car is another example.
For each person you hire, you will need to get:
- A Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- A completed Form TD1 (Personal Tax Credits Return)
In order to work legally in Canada, your candidates need to be Canadian citizens, permanent residents or have authorization to work in Canada from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. If your potential candidate presents you with a SIN card starts with a ‘9’, you cannot hire them! They are authorized only to work for a specific employer and unless you’re the one who helped them make the application, it’s not you!
Every year, before the end of February, you’ll also need to complete T4 slips for each employee, along with the T4 Summary form, that you submit to the federal government.
Keeping records from day 1 on each employee is essential—more on that next!
What kind of records should you keep on an employees performance?
For each employee:
- Employee’s name, address and start date.
- Time worked, every day and week.
- Copies of any written agreements between employer and employee, including signed offers.
- CPP contributions.
- EI premiums and income tax withheld.
- Documentation referring to taxable benefits.
- Vacation time and pay records.
- Grievance reports (either towards the employee or between employees).
- Filings and records of human rights violations.
- Any information related to leaves from employment, including: pregnancy, parental, emergency, family caregiver, medical, illness, reservist (military), bereavement.
- Form TD1, Personal Tax Credits Return.
- All information slips issued and returns filed.
You need to keep these records at your place of business or your home and you must keep a minimum of six years of records, as you can be asked for them at any time, by CRA officials.
The cost of hiring in Ontario
You need to factor in the cost of hiring employees in Ontario before you set out to do it. What you need to include:
- Recruiting – advertising your available positions or hiring a recruiter? These are outlined in the next section, but suffice it to say that even if you place ads on Kijiji.ca, there’s a cost associated with these, if you want to get any traction with them.
- Wages / Salary – The most obvious cost of hiring is what you are going to pay your candidate. Whether hourly or annually, you need to look at a couple of factors when deciding about wages. This post includes a separate section, just below, on this topic!
- CPP Contributions – This is currently (2018) 4.95% for salaries over $3,500 and under $55,900.00. So on a salary of $25,000.00, the first $3,500 is exempt, and you would calculate 4.95% of $21,500.00, which is $1,064.25. These rates / limits change annually.
- EI Contributions – This is adjusted annually but is currently set at 1.4 times the employee contribution amount, to an annual maximum (2018: $51,700.00). Your employee’s amount is set at 1.66% in 2018, to a max of $858.22 for them to pay and $1201.51 for you to pay.
- Vacation pay, holiday pay and the cost of replacing that person for their holidays – Vacation pay in Ontario is 4% of the gross income, for employees with less than 5 years at the company. How you calculate that depends on how much vacation they get, how long they’ve worked there and several other variables, per the Employment Standards Act. Plus you need to factor in holiday pay for statutory holidays. There are nine public holidays in Ontario: New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The formula for calculating what the holiday pay should be depends on where the holiday falls, in the year.
- Family Leave – Maternity, paternity or other — Pregnancy and parental leave are covered under two jurisdictions. Provincial laws require businesses to allow mothers to take leave of up to 17 weeks unpaid for pregnancy leave and up to 63 weeks parental leave, after the baby is born, for either parent. Of course, there are qualifications for this, but ultimately, they are paid under the federal Employment Insurance Act. Whether or not you supplement EI payments is entirely your call, based on what you can afford.
- WSIB—Workplace Safety and Insurance Board—premiums, if your industry requires it. You can look them up here, based on your industry.
- EHT—Employer Health Tax. You are exempt from paying this on the first $450,000.00 of your payroll, so it might not be a factor right away, but something to keep in the back of your mind!
None of this factors in non-mandated benefits or perks, which will be addressed in a later section!
What are you going to pay your employees?
Depending on the job you are offering, you could be looking at minimum wage or you could be looking at a salary that reflects their specific skills and abilities. The minimum wage varies for adults, students, people who are serving liquor, home workers and … interestingly, hunting and fishing guides! It’s all outlined, by year, in the Employment Standards Act.
If you are offering minimum wage plus commission, for a sales related position for example, the weekly pay must reflect at least the minimum wage amount for the hours worked. There are other regulations governing areas like jobs where room and board is provided, or where tips and gratuities are part of the job!
You can research average pay by geographic area for specific roles with sites like Payscale.com but another good way is through your business network.
- Look at what other businesses are paying for similar jobs in your area;
- Look at job descriptions online;
You want to be competitive in your area without being too high, and potentially affecting your bottom line.
An important thing to remember is that you must pay your employees equal pay for equal work. “Equal pay for equal work applies when there is “equal work” meaning the employees perform substantially the same kind of work in the same establishment, the work requires substantially the same skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions. All of these conditions must be met for equal pay for equal work to be required.” (Source).
In particular, you cannot differentiate pay based on:
- A person’s gender;
- A person’s work status (full time vs. part time, for example, if they are doing the same job. Another example is seasonal vs. permanent.)
You CAN differentiate pay based on:
- Production quantity or quality (if that’s a factor in the role).
It’s best if you outline how your merit / seniority system works in writing in an employee handbook, so that everyone is aware of it and how it affects them. It’s also a good idea to review pay structures every once in a while to make sure that you’re still following all the rules!
In addition to their pay, there are taxable and non-taxable benefits and perks, a topic that will be addressed later on.
How many hours can you ask them to work?
This, like so many other areas within the Employment Standards Act, varies. However, a general rule of thumb is that an employee can work up to 8 hours a day or 48 hours a week. This includes the time during which your employee is being trained.
The flip side to hours worked is hours of rest away from work. An employee is entitled to 11 consecutive hours away from work, daily. Of course, this doesn’t apply to doctors on call or work of that nature, but it’s a basic rule that you need to be aware of. There are other exceptions to these rules (example: emergency situations), but taking on too much work and needing to fill rush orders, or not hiring enough staff at Christmas aren’t among them, so learn the limits on employee hours to be sure to stay on the right side of them!
Employees are also entitled to:
- A 30 minute unpaid meal break, every 5 hours of work.
- Overtime pay—typically calculated at a rate of time and a half—IF the weekly hours exceed 44 hours, depending on the contracted arrangements; time off in lieu is a possibility and the Ministry of Labour provides calculators to ensure that you are remaining within legal boundaries for these. There are exceptions here too. For example, managers are not entitled to overtime pay.
Writing a job description
While it’s important to outline the wages / salary that are being offered, as well as any perks or benefits, the real crux of a job description is to clearly, but without being too narrow, define what it is you are looking for in your ideal candidate.
- Write in clear language, using a minimum of acronyms or industry ‘jargon’. Be wary of any discriminatory language in the description.
- Describe the job — this should be done in terms that clearly define what will be expected of the employee, including hours, tasks, and expectations. Use one line per duty that you expect will be part of their performance, so that it’s clear and unambiguous. Don’t overstate the duties in the hopes of catching a bunch of other small activities in the net: it will read as if you’re not sure yourself what the job is about!
- Hard skills — outline the education, specific certifications, knowledge and experience you expect a candidate to have but be realistic! You can’t expect to find someone with a PhD in chemical fusion who also has an English degree and 10 years of customer service experience! All for $22/hour. Make sure the skills required are aligned with the job itself! Also, it’s not always positive to designate a specific educational requirement unless it is directly related to the job. Just because someone doesn’t have a university degree doesn’t mean someone can’t do the job! You might be missing out on great candidates if you are too narrow in your focus and that focus isn’t necessarily relevant to the job.
- Soft skills – whether that’s an ability to handle irate customers, or multi task several duties at once, make sure the skills are related to actual abilities, not to your preferences surrounding personality.
- State salary range, if you don’t want to state a specific number and any benefits that they can expect to receive, as well as non-monetary perks (more on that later!)
Recruiting tips to find the right candidates
Deciding to hire is one thing. Finding the right candidates to choose from is another. There are a couple of ways you can go about recruiting for your business.
If you have a need for very specific skills, it might be worth contacting a recruiting firm that specializes in that industry or role. It can be tough to find that needle in a haystack of resumes! Another useful option here is leveraging LinkedIn. As a professional network, you’re more likely to find people with the skills you need and can match them to your geographic location. You can also post ads on the site.
The key is to be clear on your job description about what you are looking for and what you are offering, so as to avoid an onslaught of resumes from people who aren’t qualified or won’t accept your terms. Example? If you’re not offering any kind of relocation assistance for someone who isn’t local, you need to say so right up front. You can help to limit your results to people who live within a certain distance of your location that way.
You can also send a message to all your own LinkedIn connections, letting them know that you are looking for a specialized skill set. Someone there might be able to refer you to exactly the right person!
If you are looking for more general skills or staff who are live near your location, a good place to start is the local economic development group. The Innisfil Economic Development Team, for example, offers assistance in employment support, including lists of local job fairs and wage / training subsidy options that you might be able to leverage.
Chatting with other local business owners can be a great way to find out about untapped resources for staffing that you might not be aware of, particularly if you’re new to a community. In South Simcoe, for example, there are a range of entrepreneur groups that you can joint to get started with both your networking and to ask others for their experiences with local hiring:
- Start up South Simcoe: https://www.meetup.com/Startup-South-Simcoe/
- Local Meetup Entrepreneurship events: https://www.meetup.com/topics/entrepreneurship/ca/on/barrie/
- HBEC events: https://www.georgiancollege.ca/community-alumni/entrepreneurship-centre/tab/events
- Connected Entrepreneur events: http://entrepreneursconnect.ca/events-2/
- Xcellerate Summit: http://xceleratesummit.co/
There are plenty of online options for listing your job, both in local areas and on a wider scale. From local Kijiji.ca job listings categories, to Facebook listings, to reams of online options, be sure to also include the jobs and their descriptions, as well as instructions for applying on your own website.
Better still if every ad simply refers the potential applicant back to your website. It’s good for your site traffic numbers AND you can control the message of what jobs are currently available without having to track where you might have placed ads! It’s also ideal to be able to give candidates a better sense of the culture of the workplace and other benefits and perks, something you can only really accomplish on your own webspace.
Trade shows and other events are also a good place to find potential employees. You need to be open to that possibility whenever you are at a business related event! And if you’re a member of the local Chamber of Commerce or any trade associations, let your contacts there know about the positions you’re looking to fill.
Establishing a list of pre-screening questions is a good way to whittle down a list of candidates but be careful of being too tight with these as you might end up refusing someone who would in fact be great, on a technicality. You want to include skills and requirements on these pre-screens that are ‘deal breakers’. In other words, without that skill or this ability, you would NOT hire the person, no matter how nice they are or what other skills they have.
Listing jobs online can result in hundreds of resumes from people who aren’t even qualified for the job. It can be a lot of work to go through them all and decide which ones you want to pre-screen and which ones don’t even merit a phone call. In a perfect world, you will want to respond to each and every one of them, even those you aren’t going to interview, but depending on the number of responses you get, that might not be possible.
Keep in mind that someone who might not be right for your business now might be in the future, so politely turning them down is the only way to go!
Interviewing and hiring the right way!
Reading up on the Ontario Human Rights Code makes clear one thing when it comes to hiring: be fair! The only concern you should have is whether or not a candidate is qualified to do the job as you’ve outlined it in your description. Their gender, race or if they have a disability, should not come into your process, unless it relates to the job requirements. Example? “A financial institution is filling a customer service job for one of its branches located in an ethnically diverse area of the city. The position requires fluency in one or more of the languages the local population uses. Asking what languages the applicant speaks would be allowed if this is a bona fide job requirement.”(Source)
Your questions need to comply with the Code, otherwise it could be inferred in an investigation that the reason for not hiring a certain candidate was based on those questions, even if it wasn’t! If the question isn’t directly related to the job and the qualifications, don’t ask it!
“A hiring manager interviewing a female applicant starts off by casually discussing his family and asking if she has any children of her own. Throughout the interview, the applicant is distracted, wondering if her family status is going to be an issue for the employer. This may be a violation of the Code, even if this information is not taken into account and the applicant is offered the job.” (Source)
If you given any tests or do anything to check specific qualifications for a role, you must apply these to each person equally and fairly. You can’t simply decide that someone isn’t qualified because of another factor.
Example? A person with a disability: “ A person shows up for an interview in a wheelchair and is told that she need not attend the interview. The failure to individually assess this applicant is discriminatory even if she could not perform the essential duties of the position with accommodation and is less qualified than the successful candidate.” (Source)
You need to be aware of the possibility of any subjective bias that you might have that aren’t appropriate. For example, even as a small business, you cannot wilfully eliminate a woman of reproductive age from consideration because you’re worried that she’ll get pregnant and go off on parent leave, such that you have to incur the cost and burden of finding a temporary replacement.
Other ways you can run into trouble with bias / discrimination?
- Rejecting candidates based on their ‘fit’ with your ‘image’.
- Rejecting candidates whom you deem to be ‘overqualified’.
- Rejecting candidates with gaps in their employment history but who are otherwise qualified.
- Rejecting candidates with physical disabilities without assessing their skills.
There are countless others! One way you can help to ensure that you aren’t interviewing with unconscious bias is to have more than one person involved in the interview, either as a panel, or in separate interviews.
Keep interview records for every position for at least six months, but even better if you can keep them longer. If a candidate files a complaint, you might need them!
Want to host an interview like a pro?
Make the candidate feel welcome — No matter how much experience they have, an interviewee can be nervous and it might reflect on their performance at the interview. Make them feel comfortable and welcome by creating a warm, instead of an oppressive, investigative environment.
Make sure you’ve done your research — It doesn’t take long to do a quick search online and on social media to see what you can find out about the person before they come to see you, beyond their resume. LinkedIn is a good professional resource! If you have someone else vetting your candidates, to create a short list before you interview them, make sure you’ve at least read their resume before you sit down!
Ask great questions — Like what?
- Tell me about a project, colleague or work experience that was challenging and how you handled it / them?
- What is your most important accomplishment in your career, to date?
- What does your ideal role look like right now?
- What was the biggest failure related to <insert required skill for the job> in your career so far?
- Tell me about your favourite boss and why you liked them?
- Where do you see our industry going in the next five years?
Take notes — Record keeping of the process is a good idea, for the reasons noted earlier, but also because it gives the candidate reassurance that they are being taken seriously for the role.
Make sure there are no distractions — Put your phone on mute and hold all your calls for the interview. Endless interruptions are bound to add to a candidate’s nervousness!
Ask them if they have any questions — They might want to put something on the table right away, such as the need to work from home once in awhile to accommodate a caregiving schedule. Be open to any and all questions: you can defer your answers if you’re not sure but don’t wait too long!
An important question is whether to talk about the details of the hire, in the initial interview. This assumes you’re going to have them in for more than one, and depending on the level of the position, you may not want to do this. So you need to be prepared, at the interview, to discuss issues such as salary, vacation time, benefits and other perks. It’s good practice NOT to ask them what they were earning and what benefits they were receiving in their past job. That really should have no bearing on what you plan to pay / offer them.
When the interview is over, whether you hire them or not, communicate with them and let them know, giving them feedback if it’s warranted. There’s nothing worse than not hearing from an employer after an interview!
What about testing your potential hire?
More and more, employers are choosing to test the candidates to verify skills that they claim to have. Still others will ask that person to come in and ‘work’ for a day on a trial basis, to see if they’re a good fit personality wise.
Testing candidates during the interview process is fine, so long as you advise them of this before they attend the meeting. You might be planning a three hour interview, to include testing time. They might have banked on being there for only an hour of conversation and haven’t booked enough time from their current work, or their other obligations, to accommodate the three hours. It’s not a test of their mettle to put them in the position of having to walk away, mid-interview, because the babysitter needs to get home!
If you want them to be at your business for half a day or more, you need to pay them for their time, whether you hire them or not. Work that in as if they were a temporary freelance hire. Particularly if you don’t end up hiring them, taking up hours of their time for ‘free’ can leave a bad taste in their mouth, and yours!
What kind of testing is appropriate? It depends on the job. If they say they can type x / words per minute, it’s not unreasonable to test them on this. If they are going to be on the phone all day with your customers, it’s okay to run through some scenarios with them to see how they would react with a negative or even abusive customer. If they claim to have bookkeeping skills, put them to the test!
Another form of testing that many recruiters use is psychometric testing. These tests, when administered, measure personality and behavioural traits that might not otherwise be apparent in the interview process. While they can be indicative of a person’s work style or attitude, the results can also be skewed because a person is likely answering how they THINK you want them to, as opposed to with their true reactions.
That said, psychometric testing can be helpful when you are hiring someone to be in a position where they might have to deal with negative or difficult situations, where the cohesiveness of your team is paramount or where you need to know whether they have what it takes to grow into a leadership role.
Ultimately, psychometric tests, like DiSK tests, are just one tool in the recruitment tool box. Spending time interviewing people is far more valuable, as you can develop an instinct about them and how they would fit into your work environment. Allowing for the fact that most people are nervous at an interview and therefore not always at their best, personality wise, it’s important to feel a connection with your potential hire, particularly if you don’t have a lot of staff and will be working closely with them.
If you’ve interviewed a candidate and you’re not prepared to make them an offer, it’s a good idea to find ways to keep in touch with them. After all, unless they truly made a bad impression at the interview, you thought enough of their skills to have them in for a chat in the first place, and you might find that they will be a better fit at some point in the future.
These days, it’s common for employers to not even bother to contact candidates after an interview, unless they’re being offered the job. It’s a negative tactic that can get you a bad reputation for being uncommunicative.
Instead, keep in touch with candidates that were close but not quite right for the position by offering to include them in your email newsletter mailing list, or future emails about upcoming jobs. If they liked your company and were disappointed to not be offered the job, they’ll likely be happy to stay in touch.
If however, after all the planning and job description writing and interviewing, you’re ready to make an offer to one of the candidates, put it in writing. More on that in the next section.
What should be in your offer?
Now that you’ve picked your candidate, you need to make them an offer. This is best done in writing, though if you preface it with a phone call to make sure they’re interested in taking the job before you send the email / letter, you’ll save some time. If there was a time lag between interview an offer, they may have moved on to another position already.
Assuming they have verbally accepted the job, you can formalize that with a written offer. An offer letter is distinct from an employment contract (which will include more extensive information on the role, expectations, HR matters, vacation, leave policies and so on), which you should have them sign on their first day, along with any other documents you require, like a non-compete agreement or non-disclosure agreement.
The offer letter / email should contain:
- A summary of the job duties, including the job title.
- The start date and terms of the contract (full time, part time, contract, number of hours per week).
- Some people choose to include an expiry date on the offer, in the event that you didn’t receive verbal acceptance of the role.
- Vacation period being offered in year 1.
- The salary being offered.
- Any benefits offered.
- Any contingencies to the job. Example? If you need an RCMP background check because the candidate will be working with children, that needs to be a contingency that is noted.
- Copies of any documents that you will eventually need them to sign, including NDAs, so they have a chance to review them before arriving on their first day.
- You might want to include your company policies, if you’ve formalized them, or an employee handbook, if you have one, which outlines everything you would have discussed in the interview, in more detail.
- If you want them to sign back their acknowledgment of the letter, you can set it up on a PDF with apps like HelloSign, which allow them to sign digitally and return it to you.
A job offer letter is important as it sets a baseline from which any negotiations over salary or other conditions of employment can be initiated.
What kind of benefits do you have to offer?
In a word: none. You don’t have to offer benefits by law, in a smaller organization. Unionized and larger environments are a different story, but assuming that’s not what we’re dealing with here, the answer is: none.
With a couple of exceptions:
- CPP – Canada Pension Plan
- EI – Employment Insurance
- WSIB Premium coverage
That said, when the unemployment figures go down and candidates with skills can be choosier, you might want to consider adding benefits to your offering. Keep in mind that the days of people staying in one job their whole lives are over, so if you want to attract candidates in part with your fabulous benefits package, these need to be flexible and portable, to be of interest.
A reasonable package can cost up to 15% of your current payroll, so it’s not a small addition to the expenses, but it’s often a much desired part of any compensation package so it’s worth considering if you want to attract and hire the best possible candidates.
You need to consider two things when putting together a benefits package:
- What your employees are likely to want (if you have any yet, ask them!)
- What you can afford.
What are some possible benefits you could consider offering?
- Group health benefits. This could include options like prescription coverage, physio, vision and dental care.
- Life, critical illness and disability benefits (short and long term).
- Extra vacation time, over and above mandated amounts.
- Paid sick leave.
- Training and education allotment, for skills upgrading.
- RRSP / LIRA funds.
It’s important to distinguish between taxable and non-taxable benefits, to ensure that they are actually beneficial to your employees and to the business as a whole. For example, if you pay the premiums for your employee’s long term disability benefits, and they need to leverage them, the income they would receive would be taxable. If they pay the premiums themselves, the income is non-taxable!
Another example is the use of a company registered car for non-business purposes. If you (or your business) owns the vehicle, and your employee uses it for non-business reasons, that’s a taxable benefit that needs to be accounted for as part of their income. Cash gifts, parking and other benefits are all taxable.
On the other hand, non-cash gifts are non-taxable so long as their annual value doesn’t exceed $500.00. Excluded from this are very small items like coffee and tea at the office, clothing with company branding on it, and performance award trophies.
One thing is for sure, you can’t just put together a solid benefits package on your own so when you’re ready to set up a package for your employees, current and future, speak with a benefits consultant / broker, to get independent advice that will take into account your needs and your budget.
Ideas for non-monetary perks that even a startup can afford!
Competing for great employees with bigger companies that have more money to spend on salaries and benefits can be tough but ask most people and they will say that money isn’t everything when it comes to deciding whether or not they want to stay with a company.
What are other way you can offer perks to your employees, to keep them happy and motivated?
- Tell them they’re doing a good job! Honestly, sometimes it’s just about a little bit of recognition that makes them feel worthwhile. Just make sure that it’s sincere. Keep the lines of communication open, so that your employees feel you are really listening to them.
- Build up on a the idea of working as a team. No, we’re not talking about standing around the office engaging in trust exercises by falling backwards into each other’s arms. But creating a little ‘us v. them’ can motivate a team to grow together. Have you ever seen the movie ‘Erin Brockovich’ – at one point, Erin says to the lawyer she’s working for, Ed Masry, that their current legal battle is: “kind of like David and what’s-his-name.” Mr. Masry replies that it’s: “kind of like David and what’s-his-name’s whole #$#^R family!” Those two made a great team!
- Flexible work options. These days of sandwich generation families with people taking care of young children and aging parents, divorce and everything in between, a little flexibility in work arrangements can go a long way to keeping people happy and feeling more balanced. If you expect them to make a little extra time when the work day runs long with a customer, you should offer the same in return.
- Make your office pet friendly! Who wouldn’t want to hug a Golden Retriever in the middle of a stressful day? This has to be handled carefully, what with allergies and some people having fears of dogs, but it’s a fun way to add a little relaxation in your work environment.
- Training and education. If you can help to pay for or even allow time for an employee to pursue a higher level of their skills, why wouldn’t you? Some people are content doing the same job for a long time, not really progressing in any material way, but most younger candidates in particular are looking for growth. Offer them challenges and the support they need to meet them. They might surprise you with their ability to meet them!
- Casual work dress. If the environment allows for it, why not relax the standards around suits and such, to allow your employees some flexibility and choice in what they wear every day?
Hiring employees is not only a big expense, but it’s a huge responsibility. You are undertaking to provide someone with gainful employment and they’re counting on you for their ongoing security. A person’s livelihood is important and must be taken seriously, by both you and them.
The laws that are in place to ensure a fair and safe workplace may seem onerous when you read about them all at once, but they are for everyone’s benefit and in the long run, can save you a lot of time and money if you follow them correctly.